3D Movie Maker (often abbreviated as 3DMM) is a program created by Microsoft Kids in 1995. Using this program, users are able to place 3D characters into pre-made environments, add actions, sound effects, music, text, speech, and special effects then show these movies off to friends, family, and the world. These are saved in the 3D Movie formats: ".3mm" and ".vmm".
The program features two helper characters to guide users through the various features of the program. The character McZee (Voiced by Michael Shapiro) provides help throughout the studio while his assistant Melanie provides various tutorials. In Nickelodeon 3D Movie Maker, the user is guided by Stick Stickly.
3D Movie Maker is built on the BRender, a 3D graphics engine created by Argonaut Software. The models and prerendered backgrounds were created by Illumin8 Digital Pictures, a now defunct graphics studio, using Softimage modeling software. The cinematic introduction and help sequences were created by Productions Jarnigoine, a now inactive production company directed by Jean-Jacques Tremblay.
Creating animation in 3D Movie Maker is a straightforward process, allowing younger users to create movies with ease. By default, 40 actors/actresses are available, each with 4 different costumes and a number of actions, as well as 20 different props. Twelve different scenes are available to the user, each containing several different camera angles. Many sample voice and MIDI music clips are included, but extra voices can be recorded using a microphone, and external wav and MIDI files can be imported.
The way movies are made in 3D Movie Maker is not like that of, for example, a video camera. A video camera works by recording images (frames) in quick succession. 3D Movie Maker stores the positions of the characters and objects for each frame. It moves at about 6 to 8 frames per second, which makes the movies choppier than expected. The finished movie, however, can only be viewed inside 3D Movie Maker using the virtual auditorium or the studio, unless converted to a video file format with a third-party utility. The application's user interface is centered upon a theatre building consisting of several rooms: the ticket booth, where the user is greeted by McZee and asked to play or create a movie; lobby and concession stand; theatre, for watching movies; and other rooms for tutorials and tools.
A Japanese expansion pack for 3DMM was released with characters from the popular children's manga and anime series Doraemon. It consists of 11 new scenes, 5 new characters, and 96 new voices.
Demo versions: these only feature the studio, do not allow the opening or saving of movies, and only feature two actors and one prop. They are Bongo, Nakita and a red car for 3D Movie Maker and Ren, Stimpy and a spaceship for Nickelodeon 3D Movie Maker.
Nickelodeon 3D Movie Maker is software separate from, but based on, 3D Movie Maker. This spin-off includes 12 unique actors and 11 unique scenes from Rocko's Modern Life, Ren & Stimpy and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. An unofficial expansion pack was later created, allowing Nickelodeon actors, props, scenes, music and sounds to be used in the original 3D Movie Maker.
Several user-made expansions and animation tools exist.
3DMM Animation Pro: (2002) Binds mouse movements to the keyboard, allowing directors to create more fluid movements on screen.
Doraemon Expansion Pack: This pack, based on the Japanese character, was only released in Japan.
3DMM Expansion Pack: (2003) A user-made expansion, known as "Frankie's Expansion" after its creator Frank Weindel, that introduced the first new textures, actors, and objects to the software since release.
Virtual 3D Movie Maker (V3DMM): (2004) An expansion management program allowing users to include their own customized expansions in their movies and allow them to be freely distributed.
Alamo PC Organization said "This is not a program one masters in a few days, or even weeks. It is a wonderful demonstration of technological advancement for Windows 95 graphical programming possibilities. This program in the hands of casual, perhaps even dedicated home users, is not a threat to any commercial animation firm." Aaron Matterson of Joystick Division said "It looked impossibly goofy even by 1995 standards, but [I did] love it, and it taught me many things about my own creativity, the art of storytelling, and a strange, terrible humanoid creature named McZee".